Chasing Mice and Eating Elephants
Following on from the discussion about planned abandonment, there was an interesting post over on Ron Martoia’s velocityculture blog, where he talked about hunting elephants rather than mice, with the follow on comment by Ron:
“…focused on and how do you align time, energy, creativity and any other resource to the accomplishing of that mission. Mice are details, mission is elephant.”
Which got me thinking. It is true that if you spend all of your time chasing mice, you’ll never catch an elephant, but it isn’t that simple with goals and tasks. Achieving long term goals requires ‘running up and down the ladder’ from minute-by-minute tasks at the bottom, to long term goals and life mission at the top of the ladder. Running up and down the ladder means making sure that each wrung is connected with the ones above and below. That way our minute-by-minute doing is connected with our long term vision, and if you run it back up, the long term vision should be connected to what you do minute-by-minute – even if they are very far apart. What we actually do with our time tells us something about what we want to do with our life.
Everyone knows that the only way to eat an elephant is one meal at a time – or to eat it in mouse-sized pieces. Actually, I hope you don’t try to eat a real elephant or mouse, but breaking large objectives down into manageable chunks is a very effective way of achieving them. Setting some goals on the way to a long term aim helps keep track and gives feedback on progress made, or points out any lack of progress.
Now, to really mess the metaphor up: if I am chasing a mouse, I need to make sure it is part of the elephant I am after. If it isn’t, I should stop chasing it as it is probably a butterfly (see Watch out for the frogs). If the task (the mouse!) is part of an elephant, I can picture the elephant and approach the mouse with a better understanding of what it is part of. OK, enough animals, back to the ladder – if I put a foot on the first rung, I must be clear which ladder I am climbing and what is at the top of the ladder – is it up against the right wall (to use a Covey illustration from the 7 Habits)? ThinkingRock is a great piece of software that makes this process very easy, since you can create hierachies of projects, which drill right down to tasks (more on that in a later post). In the mean-time, I hope you have the greatest of success in running up down your ladders, with the right mice and elephants!
[…] hope that no-one would actually eat an elephant, but it is a common phrase and a strong image (see Chasing Mice and Eating Elephants for one discussion). The way to deal with a monster task is to take it one little piece at a time. […]
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